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Jim Ausfahl

Stardate 9676.4
October 5, 2296
around 1:30 in the morning

Uhura sat, quietly watching the mainviewer of the Hyperion, as the stars slowly slid past the ship. Command still failed to sit easily on her shoulders, but with several months of commanding the refit Hyperion behind her, it no longer felt as foreign as it once did. Exploring and patrolling the corner of the Beta Quadrant with Fleet Commander Chekov on the Enterprise-B, Captain Xon on the Cooper and Captain Kelsey on the Chosin was beginning to feel almost comfortable. The eighty-plus meter diameter primary hull of the Hyperion was becoming as familiar as the saucer section on the old Enterprise had once been.

The voice of her Vulcan communications officer interrupted her reverie. "Captain, communication from the Enterprise-B."

"Mainviewer, T’Soral."

Fleet Captain Chekov’s face filled the screen. "Privyat, Nyota."

"Hello back to you, Fleet Captain. What do you need?"

Chekov smiled, a little guilt on his face. "I need you to pick up a sociologist from Dandrin Four. It’s Gogin, if you remember him."

"Isn’t he one of the two sociologists that Scotty put through the mill on the Enterprise-A back when you were still a lowly commander?"

The Russian nodded. "The same; he put me through the mill, too, in case you’ve forgotten. Of my command group, your ship is the closest to him."

"I sense that there’s more to tell, Pavel. If I recall correctly, he’d be fairly old, for a Tellarite. Is he ill?"

"Not exactly." The Fleet Captain fidgeted for a moment before continuing. "It seems that Gogin lasted less than two days on Dandrin Four before he got himself jailed. Sendal, a Vulcan specialist in legal structures, will be joining you to try to get him freed. From what Ambassador Spock says, Sendal’s probably the leading mind in his field."

"I can see Gogin getting in trouble. If you’ll transmit the rendezvous to pick up Sendal, we’ll see if we can rescue Gogin from the natives of Dandrin Four." Briefly, Uhura looked her superior officer in the eye. "Just out of curiosity, Fleet Captain, are there any other details I need to know about?"

"Just one. Gogin was sent there to make the final evaluation of the society before the United Federation of Planets prepared to offer them membership. It would be helpful if you and Sendal managed to extract Gogin without offending the population and government of Dandrin Four." Chekov pulled a wry face. "From what I understand, that may be easier said than done. The system’s not particularly strategic, but every new member is important; that’s part of the reason our four ships are out here exploring."

"Thanks for the warning. Is there anything else?"

"As if that wasn’t enough! That’s all I know, Kyptin, other than the certainty that nothing in Starfleet is ever as easy as it looks." The Russian shrugged. "That and the fact that I’m confident you can handle whatever the Dandrini throw at you, Nyota."

"Thank you, Pavel. Hyperion out." The captain turned to her helmsman. "Marsden, do you have the coordinates?"

"Yes, sir!"

"Then take us there." Uhura settled back into the command chair, trying to guess what Gogin had done and to figure out how to rescue him.


Sendal stepped onto the bridge. "Captain Uhura, if I might have a word with you?"

Uhura turned to face the Vulcan. "Of course. Do we need to speak in private?"

"No, Captain, I do not believe so. We are, I believe, approaching the Dandrin system."

Uhura looked over at Marsden. "We should be entering the system in about half an hour, Captain."

The captain turned back to Sendal. "Is there a problem?"

"The Dandrini have a most unusual and complex legal system, Captain," the legal specialist returned. "I confess that I have not seen one quite like it among civilized planets. Their social structure is heavily dictated by tradition; expectations on behavior are remarkably complex. Almost everything is determined by one or more traditional imperatives. It almost appears designed to trip up the unwary. Unquestionably, one small slip can be devastating. They are almost obsessed about the accumulation of guilt, to the point that it colors almost every aspect of their lives." The Vulcan’s pointed ears moved slightly closer to his head. "Under the circumstances, it might be prudent to contact the Dandrini now, to petition permission to enter their system. It would, I believe, reduce our risk of assuming guilt, as they would put it."

The captain nodded, pensively. "Advice from a Vulcan, in my experience, is always worth accepting. If their legal system is that complex and hidebound, it might be wiser for you to make the contact as my representative."

"An excellent idea, Captain. I am quite willing to do so for you."

Uhura turned to T’Soral.

"Contacting the Dandrini, Captain."

On the forward screen, there appeared a creature of roughly reptilian appearance, its scaled skin shimmering an iridescent tan. "You are heard, Hyperion. What is your petition?"

"Permission to enter your system, permission to enter a parking orbit around your world, and the prescribed trajectory we should follow to do that, if we may." Sendal’s voice showed more than the usual Vulcan control.

"Are you the captain of the Hyperion?" There was a disrespectful, almost hostile undertone in the Dandrini’s voice. Without making any overt remark to the effect, the being somehow managed to communicate the fact that there was considerable question as to how far the Dandrini was willing to lower itself by condescending to talk to Sendal.

"I am her designated representative, imbued with full authority to make this request and receive its reply." Other than the movements necessary for speech, the Vulcan remained almost rigidly immobile. "The one before me is captain of this vessel."

The lizard-like face bobbed for a moment. "Very well. Clearance is issued. Your trajectory will be issued to you shortly. Do not deviate from it. Do you wish anything further?"

"We crave one other boon. A citizen of the United Federation of Planets, Gogin by name and Tellarite by race, has unknowingly incurred guilt and faces judgment. We wish to communicate with him, and wish to aid in his facing judgment as we may and as we are permitted by the Council of the Righteous." If anything, Sendal seemed to stiffen slightly.

"You do not feel that our Weighers of Evidence are able? I fail to understand what the likes of you can offer them."

"I have no question of their skills," Sendal responded levelly. "Without doubt they know the Traditions and Guidance of the Righteous better than I. However, since the Tellarite Gogin is a citizen of the United Federation, and since the People of Dandrin wish to enter the United Federation, it was our thought that they might wish to avail themselves of the skills of a master of our legal system, such as myself. It would be great guilt on our part not to offer such aid, would it not?"

A period of uncomfortable silence ensued, the lizard-like head bobbing. "Concerning this, I must ask, Vulcan. A decision will be made by the time you have reached our planet."

Sendal bowed deeply. "I express deepest gratitude to you, and to the Council of the Righteous for hearing my requests." The legal expert had hardly finished his sentence before the screen switched back to the stars in front of the Hyperion.

Uhura turned to face the Vulcan. "That sounded like you were trying to walk through the verbal equivalent of a minefield, Sendal. Are we going to have to face this sort of obnoxious attitude the entire time we’re in this system?"

"It is difficult to predict." Uhura could almost see Sendal relaxing. "The interview went remarkably well. Once in orbit, we will be somewhat more accepted, I hope, and able to talk without being quite so stiff and formal. It is necessary to understand, however, that their social system is unusually formalized, and their legal system is, by our standards, fossilized in the equivalent of the Terran early Middle Ages. There is a very rigid caste structure, and an equally rigid set of rules controlling how people in any given caste are allowed to communicate with those of other castes, or even those within their caste. The situation is rendered considerably more difficult by their having a degree of arrogance that borders on an extreme feeling of vast superiority over all other species. My understanding is that they can be remarkably annoying to handle. I would advise considerable care in any and all communication with the Dandrini."

"Perhaps, Sendal," Uhura suggested, "it might be prudent for all communication to go through you for the time being."

"Perhaps, Captain. It is an issue that we must discuss at your convenience; I do not wish to usurp your authority." No sign of anything other than sincerity registered on Sendal’s face. "However, in the interests of not jeopardizing our mission, my acting as your negotiator might be the most logical course."

"Consider yourself assigned that task, until further notice, Sendal." The captain was more than happy to allow the Vulcan legal expert the task of dealing with the Dandrini. "Will you need to consult with me concerning your further plans?"

"There is only one further issue, Captain, but it is a rather delicate one."

"That would be?" She almost felt that the Vulcan was beating around the bush, something that was quite atypical of Vulcans as a whole.

A slightly green tint formed at the pointed tips of Sendal’s ears. "The limitations that will be experienced on the surface, in terms of talking with Gogin and planning a defense, are very strict. To speak to the Tellarite here would be much easier, and would permit more in depth discussion with much greater ease. However, to be allowed to bring Gogin onto the Hyperion, it will be necessary to provide a substitute for him, a valued crew member to take his place until he is returned to the Dandrini equivalent of a jail cell. Under the circumstances, it seems wisest that the individual be a volunteer."

"Not that I question your evaluation, Sendal, but what circumstance is it that makes you want a volunteer?" Puzzlement registered on the captain’s face.

"In the highly unlikely event that Gogin does not return, the volunteer will have to face judgment in his place. Given the structure of their legal system, this could require the equivalent of trial by combat." Sendal paused, deep in thought. "If it comes to trial by combat, the fight may be to the death, Captain."

"In that case, Captain, I volunteer. I’m probably the best suited to handle it, if worse comes to worst." Everyone on the bridge turned to the Andorian. Drevan stared back at them. "Well? Any of you think you’re likely to be able to out-fight an Andorian with an attitude?" The silence was almost deafening. "I thought not. Captain, you have your volunteer."

Uhura felt trapped, as well as distinctly uncomfortable about it all, but she realized that she had little, if any choice. "Very well, Drevan. Sendal?"

"I believe the lieutenant is a most logical individual, Captain. Andorians have a remarkable reputation for taking care of themselves. Should it be any reassurance to you, I do not anticipate requiring a prolonged period of time with the Tellarite, which will dramatically reduce the lieutenant’s risk."

Somehow, Uhura failed to feel reassured.


Indri, Sendal and Uhura stood on the transporter deck, staring at the Andorian. Only Drevan appeared to be comfortable with the situation. "Captain Uhura, Gogin is waiting. My experience with Tellarites suggests that it is probably not good judgment to keep him waiting long. As narrow-minded as Sendal made them out as being, I’ll bet the Dandrini don’t like waiting any better than Tellarites do."

The captain nodded. "You’re right, Drevan. Indri?"

Without comment, the engineer energized the transporter. Moments later, he did so again, with Gogin appearing where Drevan once had stood. Unlike the being Uhura remembered, Gogin was somewhat stooped with age, his face deeply lined with years, and little or no hair remaining on his head. The Tellarite looked around himself. "Uhura, Indri. Recognize both of you from before. The Vulcan, now, I don’t recall. You’d be Sendal?"

"I am Sendal, Gogin. Please come with me. We have a convenient, private area where you and I can talk, so we can plan our strategy to secure your release. Refreshments have been provided."

The Tellarite nodded, the jowls formed by his age accentuating his hog-like appearance. "Thank you, Sendal. More than anything, I should like to sit down for a few minutes. This has been a remarkably trying experience."

The two beings moved into a conference area. Gogin immediately planted himself in a chair. "That’s better. Sendal, I’m not even sure what tradition or custom or law I’ve transgressed; they wouldn’t tell me. Arrogant lizards; they expected me to work it out for myself, I suppose. Downright obnoxious about it, really. Were you able to discover anything on that subject?"

"No. I was hoping you could help me with that issue."

"All I know is that they made it clear I’d be facing their Guilt Gulper, whatever in Space that is. Probably some sort of tribal tribunal or other, although I couldn’t get them to be specific about that, either." The Tellarite wearily shook his head. "If I didn’t think I knew better, I’d almost feel like I was set up. I’m too old for this kind of thing, Sendal. It’s not like I’m a Vulcan, with a life expectancy of a couple centuries."

"The record of your work indicates that you are both astute and careful with this kind of contact, and tactful, as well—no small accolade for a Tellarite. I am at a loss to understand your plight, at the moment." The Vulcan sat, thinking, for a moment. "Could you give me an idea of what was going on during the hours or moments before your being seized as a miscreant?"

"That’s the odd part. Over the last day or so, I’d been trying to come to grips with their expectation of The Guiltless One—how they figured they’d recognize the being, and what they expected he would do. It all sounded distinctly Messianic; leading them into a new future or golden age or something. Seemed to me that until we came to grips with who or what this figure was, and how their Guiltless One would be recognized, there was an unacceptable potential for social instability. Only thing I was certain about where this Guiltless One was concerned was that they expected him, her or it to completely revolutionize their culture. Believe me, it needs it, too. When things fell apart, I was being taken to the building where they impound individuals accused of crimes, pending judgment. Outside the building, there was a pen containing several huge, rather ugly reptilians. It seemed to be an unusual decoration for a prison compound, and I made comment on that fact." The Tellarite shook his head. "For some reason, things went to pieces very quickly after that. I…" Gogin stopped, mid statement, one forehoof grasping at his neck, the other, at the upper part of his rotund abdomen.

Before the sociologist had time to fall forward, Sendal was at the wall communicator. "Sickbay! Emergency! Gogin has collapsed." The Vulcan immediately moved to the Tellarite, checking for breathing and a pulse. Finding neither, he began emergency life support measures appropriate for Tellarites, hoping to buy time to allow the team from Sickbay a fighting chance at rescuing Gogin. In less than two minutes, M’Benga and Davids erupted out of the turbolift, a life-support litter between them. The physician’s assistant joined the Vulcan in manual life support, then helped M’Benga transfer Gogin to the litter. Both men rapidly began connecting Gogin to the assorted support systems the litter offered.

M’Benga’s face was grave as he looked at the readings on the litter. "Let’s move it, Hardav. Myocardial infarct, with a huge rupture in the wall of his dominant ventricle. This is going to take immediate surgery." The pair hurried to the turbolift, racing against time. "Sickbay, emergency medical overrides. Look at those arteries—hardly any flow anywhere. He must have known this was coming. How he managed to limp along…" The turbolift door slid shut, the two men still laboring to cheat the Grim Reaper.

Sendal stood, allowing his eyes to close in concentration. After standing, nearly motionless, for several moments, the Vulcan moved toward the turbolift, his pace slow but determined and his head bowed. The door slid open, allowing him to enter. "Bridge."


Drevan materialized in a large room, filled with Dandrini. The Andorian barely had time to register Gogin’s presence before the transporter locked onto the Tellarite and removed him from the room. He looked at the Dandrini. The beings seemed to average just a little over three meters tall, a fact that had not been apparent in the earlier communications. The face was strongly reptilian in appearance, with the enlargement of the skull necessary to accommodate the large brain extending backward rather than vertically, giving the strong impression that their tan colored, scaled faces were jutted forward like a myopic old man trying to read a sign. Large, three-digited hands protruded from the sleeves of the black uniforms they all wore, the only visible skin other than the head and neck. One Dandrini, obviously the leader, stood a little in front of the other three, staring at Drevan impatiently, seeming to exude the attitude that he was doing Drevan an immense favor by condescending to allow him to be present.

Ultimately, as the silence stretched to the point of being embarrassing, the Andorian decided it was time to say something. "Look, I’m sure there is some sort of ritual thing I’m supposed to say and do, as Gogin’s replacement, but we didn’t have time to properly brief me on your customs. Would it be satisfactory if we just stipulated that if I had any idea what you wanted me to do, I would have been more than happy to do it? Then we can get me to my cell and you all can be doing whatever else you’re supposed to be doing."

"Ignorance of the Traditions of the Righteous is not considered an excuse for transgressing them," the Dandrini pointed out. It was clear that he and his assistants considered Drevan a consummate waste of time, and barely worthy of their notice.

"Ignorance of Federation law and regulation isn’t, either," Drevan responded. "However, with the plethora of different races and social traditions and customs out in the galaxy, we’ve pretty much learned to separate out law and traditions that are really worth enforcing on other species from the ones that aren’t."

His head bobbing gently, the leader stared at the Andorian for a short period before responding. "I fail to comprehend. How can this be?"

Drevan scratched between his two antennae. "Perhaps if I might clarify?"

"If you can, please do." It was clear that the Dandrini was confident he was asking the impossible.

"The ignorance-is-no-excuse issue makes the assumption that the individual has had a chance to learn the law and failed to do so. For someone from another world, visiting a world that’s only recently come in contact with the Federation, that assumption is patently stupid." The chief science officer tilted his head a little bit. "Now, I admit that some things do transcend cultures, on the whole. Others just don’t. For those that don’t, insisting that someone who hasn’t had a chance to learn the rules be treated as guilty under the ignorance-is-no-excuse law is to assume immense personal guilt. Sometimes, you just have to respect another being’s culture and background."

"The Traditions and Guidance of the Righteous make no comment of such things."

One blue hand moved in a gesture of dismissal. "Why should they? It’s not like they had contact with off-planet cultures, you know. The documents are what, three or four centuries old, if not more, right?" Drevan watched the bobbing of the leader’s head, deducing that he had the being off balance. Clearly no one had ever been able to assault his system this logically, if indeed anyone had ever tried to assault it. He decided to press his advantage, hoping to find a chink in the megalomaniac’s armor. "It looks like the system is rigged to prevent independent thinking. I’d say you’re assuming guilt standing around jawing with me instead of putting me in a the holding room Gogin was using, probably a whole lot more than you would be assuming if you just put me there. You probably lose either way. If you’re willing to stipulate I followed the Traditions and Guidance of the Righteous as best as I could—which is true enough—I’m willing to back you."

The Dandrini’s eyes narrowed to a thin slit. Reading anger in the expression took no cleverness at all. "Do not speak ill of our Traditions and Guidance, off-worlder."

"I’m not. If you have to talk to someone who is allowed to think independently, please do so; I’ll hang around and wait for you, assuming that you get back before Gogin does." He shook his head. "Of course, this isn’t going to look too good to the rest of the Federation. I wouldn’t want to be in your place if this little interaction shot Dandrin’s chances of entering the UFP out of orbit. Talk about assuming a major, ugly load of guilt! What did you say your name was?"

"Names are possessions of the guilty proud." The leader of the band of Dandrini straightened slightly. "We refuse such, in the interest of righteousness."

"Wonderful. So you point at each other and say ‘Hey, YOU!" or something?" The combative side of the Andorian’s heart was beginning to enjoy tying this reptilian’s fossilized mind in knots. "Talk about efficiency."

"We have identification numbers. I am 1416-3343-5969."

"Numbers instead of names. I’m willing to bet you’re just terribly proud of being humble enough to be a number instead of a name. Whatever floats your boat, I suppose. May I call you 1416 for short?"

The three digits of both of 1416-3343-5969’s hands tightened into balls. Clearly, Drevan’s baiting him had finally hit a raw nerve. "Enough! Take him to his cell, and let him watch his future."

The three minions descended on Drevan, on command. One reached for his arm, presumably to force him to come with him. "I’ll come willingly. No need to force me."

Despite the Andorian’s implicit request, the Dandrini grabbed his arm. Almost effortlessly, Drevan shook the being’s hand off his arm. "I’d prefer it if you kept your hands to yourself. I said I would come willingly."

The Dandrini came at him again, grabbing Drevan’s arm more forcibly. This time, the Andorian sent the Dandrini flying into his comrades. "I am an Andorian, gentlebeings. We do not tolerate the behavior you are showing. Just because you’re bigger than I am doesn’t give you the right to bully me." He shifted posture slightly, to a more defensible stance. "I will go willingly. I will not be forced. To force me, or to allow you to force me, would be great guilt. On top of that, the next one of you that makes a grab at me is going to end up with broken bones, at least in the arms and maybe back and neck. I’ll bend to your culture, but only so far. This is one where you’re going to have to bend to by culture and background. Don’t push me."

The three subordinate Dandrini regained their feet, moving toward Drevan, clearly intent on taking him by force. 1416-3343-5969, their leader, watched Drevan carefully as they drew close. Unflinchingly, the Andorian stood, patiently, waiting for them to make their first move. Just before they made another attempt to take him forcibly, 1416-3343-5969 stopped them. "Let him go without restraint. He has given his word to go willingly. He speaks truthfully: to use force without need is to assume guilt. If he tries to take advantage of his situation, however, use whatever force needed, short of denying him his meeting with the Guilt Gulper."

The three beings surrounded Drevan, one before and two behind. Like birds flying in formation, they escorted him to his cell. Without complaint or sign of resistance, he allowed himself to be placed into the cell and the door locked. He looked around the room. Although the furnishings were more appropriate in size for the three meter tall Dandrini, they were tolerable, particularly the two low beds. Other than Spartan furnishings, the room’s only adornment was a floor-to-ceiling window that spanned the entire width of one wall of the room, overlooking large pens, each one holding a massive quadripedal reptile.

As striking as its maroon hide was, the beast’s most striking feature was its head and neck: the head looked to be easily three meters long, and almost half that wide, resting on a long, obviously supple neck. Fascinated, the chief science officer watched as a team of Dandrini backed a large, open vehicle full of what looked like livestock up to the outer perimeter of the pens. Driving a large, powered grapple, one of the Dandrini grasped a creature, lifted it out of the vehicle and dropped it in one of the pens. The maroon hided reptile turned and pounced, it’s long neck snapping almost straight as the massive maw closed on the other creature, one leg still protruding, twitching feebly as the beast held it’s head almost vertically and swallowed.

In the pens on either side of the creature that had been fed, the maroon monsters flailed against the bars, straining to get a morsel. Systematically, the Dandrini fed the beasts in alternating pens, leaving the unfed creatures thrashing in frenzied hunger.

Unsure as to what to make of the scene that has played out before him, the Andorian turned to the large, but low-lying mattress that served as a bed. His communicator chirped. Retrieving it from his belt, he flipped it open. "Drevan here, Hyperion. What’s up?"

Uhura’s voice came out of the small speaker. "We have a complication here, Drevan."


Sendal stepped out of the turbolift, onto the bridge. As he did so, almost as if it had been rehearsed in advance, T’Soral looked at the captain. "It’s Doctor M’Benga, Captain. He says it’s urgent."

"Overhead, T’Soral. Keme, what’s the matter?"

"It’s Gogin, Captain. While Sendal was trying to find out what happened, he suffered major damage to his heart. Sendal started life support, and had us there within minutes, but despite it all, there was irreversible damage to his brain. Eletto, Davids and I did everything we could, but it wasn’t enough. Gogin is dead."

Uhura’s head drooped forward, her face disappearing into a hand for an instant, returning to its usual posture, dampened by tears. "I’m sure you did all you could, Doctor. Thank you." She turned to T’Soral.

"Accessing information on next of kin, Captain," the chief communications officer replied before her captain could ask.

"Captain, I request that I be substituted for your chief science officer. The substitution was my idea, and I feel that if there are ill consequences, I should face them."

Uhura turned, facing Sendal. "As much as I appreciate your offer, Sendal, I cannot permit it. You realize that you are a civilian. Regulations would not permit the substitution, which you know far better than I do. For that matter, Drevan would never permit it."

"With all due respect, Captain, I believe I am better trained to work through their legal system than he is. Since this exchange was my idea, I feel more than usually responsible for the lieutenant’s plight. It is similar to what Humans would call a matter of honor."

With a quiet, almost cat-like grace, Uhura stood, turning to face the Vulcan, locking eyes with the being. Silence reigned as the two looked at each other, the captain finally breaking it. "Lieutenant Drevan would, I am sure, say that you honor his family and that you honor him greatly by making your generous offer, Sendal. Under the circumstances, your offer reflects great courage and honor on your part, and as Captain of the Hyperion, I applaud and thank you for making it. I also categorically forbid the action you propose. You will be of greater value to us all, including my chief science officer, here on the Hyperion rather than on the surface."

Although the Vulcan legal expert was significantly taller than the ship’s captain, for an instant, it almost appeared as if Uhura towered over him. Ultimately, it was Sendal who broke the second silence. "I give you my word of honor that I will obey your order, Captain Uhura." He bowed deeply. "I presume that you still wish me to labor for his release."

"I do, by any and all means other than substituting yourself." Uhura looked at T’Soral. "We need to talk to the representative of the Dandrini." She returned to Sendal. "Do your best, Sendal. That’s all I ask." She turned from him and returned to the captain’s chair, staring at the mainviewer, her face still a fixed mask.

The light tan appearance of a Dandrini filled the forward screen. "You are ready to return the Tellarite?"

Sendal looked at the captain. She nodded.

"There has been an unfortunate occurrence. Gogin was old, by the standards of his kind. He now stands before the Final Weighers of Evidence." Sendal paused for effect. "Unless you demand that we dishonor his remains and his people by returning a dead body to you for judgment in exchange for Lieutenant Drevan, we ask that you return him to us."

The Dandrini shook his head. "We cannot lay carrion before the Guilt Gulper. Your substitute must stay and face the Guilt Gulper. There is no room to negotiate."

"Deeply as I have studied the Traditions and Guidance of the Righteous, I have not been able to fully understand your Guilt Gulper. May I beg your indulgence in this, and ask that you tell me what this thing is? Knowing what it is will help me help your Weighers of Evidence."

"As you wish. It is easier to show you." In response to the Dandrini’s gesture, the screen changed to a new scene, looking down on the pens that surrounded the Dandrini jail. As the bridge crew watched, a team of Dandrini pulled an open truck back toward the pens and used a powered grapple to feed the maroon colored beasts in alternating cages. The screen registered the Dandrini again. "Tomorrow, in the Great Arena, he will meet one of the Guilt Gulpers that was not fed. His room’s only window looks out on the pens, so that he can contemplate his future. If he is adjudged guilty for the Tellarite, he will meet his end. If not, the Guilt Gulper will not consume him. I would think that it is very simple, even for off-worlders like yourself. Will that be all?"

"Thank you. That will be all." Rather than Sendal’s voice, it was Uhura’s. T’Soral cut the connection. "T’Soral, we need to talk to Drevan."

The Andorian’s voice filled the bridge. "Drevan here, Hyperion. What’s up?"

"We have a complication here, Drevan. Gogin is dead. You’ll be facing the Guilt Gulper in his stead, tomorrow."

"I sorrow to hear of Gogin’s passing, Captain. Under the circumstances, I’d like to know what this Guilt Gulper I’m facing might be, so I can plan accordingly."

"Do you have a window you can look out of, Drevan?"

"One whole wall is nothing but window, looking out on pens of what may just be the ugliest beasts I’ve ever seen. Why?"

"They’re the Guilt Gulpers." Uhura’s voice paused briefly. "Apparently, they use these beasts’ appetites as a judge, jury, and executioner."

The Andorian stared at his communicator, astonished. "Wonderful. Gladitorial combat, here I come. For being the overwhelmingly proud creatures these Dandrini are, they have a remarkably primitive concept of justice. Look, I need Indri to make me a set of really good running shoes, ones with nice, sharp spikes. Whatever else happens, I don’t want to slip and fall."

"I’ll see to it. Anything else, Drevan?" The captain’s voice showed sincere concern.

"Yeah, tell da Mole t’remember what da bouncer did for da Weed." He looked up; 1416-3343-5969 and his three minions were entering the room. "The Dandrini have arrived, Captain."

1416-3343-5969 extended his hand. "You are not permitted to communicate with others, except via provided channels, and under very strict observation. You will give me the communications device. You will also surrender any weapons."

"Thanks for telling me in advance, Warden. Is there anything else I don’t know that you expect me to know? I don’t read minds."

"I do not read minds either, Blueface," 1416-3343-5969 snapped back. "How am I supposed to know what you do not know?"

The Andorian tilted his head to one side, knowing that he had hit a nerve. Having nothing to lose, he decided to drive the barb in as deeply as he could. "The same way I’m supposed to guess what I’m expected to do. Contrary to my expectations, it not only looks like you’re capable of learning, but also appears that you just might have learned something. Now you have a slight idea of what Gogin and I feel like. Downright obnoxious, isn’t it?"

"That is beside the point. Your communications device, please?"

"This is really going to look good on the report on your people to the Federation, 1416-3343-5969. Are you making a determined effort to make your people look as unfit for interstellar society as you can?" Drevan flipped his communicator shut. He tossed it to the Dandrini. "You realize that if I had wanted, the folk in orbit could have transported me out of this cell, we could have left, and there wouldn’t have been a thing you could have done about it except whine. As for weapons, I don’t happen to have a phaser; the only other weapons I have are my teeth, hands, feet and sharp wit. If you figure out how to take those from me, I suppose I’ll have to surrender them, too, but I’d rather not."

The reptilian snatched the device out of the air. "We will not require those weapons that are part of your body. I ask you to give your word not to attempt to escape from this facility, or from the transport vehicle taking you to the Grand Arena, or any time or place before you are presented to the Guilt Gulper."

"You’ve got it, scale-face. I’d bet that your precious Traditions and Guidance didn’t have anything relevant to this situation. I do believe you might actually be learning to think for yourself. Good going."

The communicator disappeared into a pocket in the black uniform. "Do not disparage the time-honored documents that run our society."

Deciding that he’d stirred up enough trouble, Drevan just shrugged. "I wasn’t disparaging them, nor was I disparaging those who wrote them. I was complimenting you on being able to use what you know to handle what no one of your kind has ever imagined facing before today. Look, just one thing. I’m sure you don’t need to incur any guilt by denying me a decent pair of shoes to die in. They’ll be sending down a pair of shoes I’ll want for tomorrow, to meet your Guilt Gulper. May I assume you’ll have the decency to deliver them to me?"

1416-3343-5969’s head bobbed. "As long as they have no communications devices or weapons or other forbidden things in them, you will be given them."

"They’re just shoes with spikes, so I don’t slip and fall. Wouldn’t want the Guilt Gulper to have to scrape me up off the ground, would you?"

One of the other guards moved toward Drevan. 1416-3343-5969 waved him back. "You wouldn’t want to dishonor the Guilt Gulper by sending needlessly damaged meat to it. Let him prate now; tomorrow, we will see how brave he is as he runs from it."

The Andorian straightened. "Don’t judge me by your craven race. Andorians don’t run from danger; we run toward it. If it weren’t for the fact you spoke out of sheer ignorance, 1416-3343-5969, I would be forced to flatten your pointy face. Unless you’ve got further business with me, you might be better off leaving. Quickly."

The leading Dandrini’s eyes narrowed to thin slits. Without further comment he and his retinue turned and left.

Running his hand through the white shock of hear adorning his head, Drevan planted himself on the bed opposite the door. He hoped that T’Soral caught the veiled hint before the communicator was taken from him. As far as he could see, that was about the only hope he had.


Communication with Drevan stopped abruptly as the communicator closed. Uhura turned to her chief communications officer. "T’Soral, what was that tripe about a bouncer all about?"

"It is a reference to the clandestine activities we were involved in before joining the crew of the Hyperion, Captain. When Harrison Davids managed to get into a situation that was rapidly escalating into extreme danger, Drevan would arrive and throw him out on whatever pretext he could realistically imagine." The Vulcan thought for a moment. "I deduce that he was hinting that we should transport him up, presumably immediately after he was in the maw of the Guilt Gulper. If Indri is able to manage that, it would be a potentially acceptable resolution of a most regrettable situation."

The captain turned to the legal expert. "Sendal? Legal ramifications?"

Rather than answer, the Vulcan stepped over to the Science Console briefly. He looked up. "It is altogether possible that the Dandrini might consider such an act to be the equivalent of evasion of justice. However, I do not believe that it matters, Captain Uhura. It would appear that it is expected to rain tomorrow, quite torrentially. Although the arena where the accused are to meet the Guilt Gulper is open to the air, they have the capacity to create a force-field dome over it, to keep the arena floor dry."

"So? We can transport through a shield, if it isn’t too powerful, can’t we? Despite sounding hopeful, Uhura was clearly concerned.

"A stable force-field, possibly yes, Captain. But with the rapid, essentially random fluctuations caused by the falling rain, the distortion would be too great." Sendal shook his head. "I believe the Human phrase is that we are strictly out of luck."

Uhura’s knuckles paled as she gripped the arm of the center seat. "Then unless you can come up with a brilliant idea, all that we have left to do is to pray for a miracle."

"Or that Drevan will see a way out none of us can," T’Soral offered. "He is remarkably resourceful at getting out of difficult situations."

Uhura stared at the planet on the mainviewer, her face a frozen mask. "Difficult situations are one thing, T’Soral. Impossible is another."


Drevan watched as the sun slowly set, its final rays highlighting the snarling, hungry reptiles that were to star in the morning’s judgments. Idly, he wondered how many others were to face the beasts, and whether he’d be first, last, or somewhere in between. To his surprise, the door to his cell opened, and a Dandrini in a loose, gray outfit was ushered into the cell. Without comment, the being planted himself on the other bed, looking the Andorian in the eye.

As the silence became uncomfortable, Drevan decided to make a gesture of friendship. He got up and walked toward the other entity, hand extended. "Among the peoples of the United Federation of Planets, offering one’s hand to another, to be clasped and gently shaken, is a token of acceptance and mutual friendship. Is it so among the Dandrini?"

"It is so." The tan-skinned reptilian wrapped his three digits around the extended hand.

Drevan shook the Dandrini’s hand gently, then released it. "How are you identified, Friend?"

"I am 1416-3343-5969, blue faced one. Before I became a number, my mother called me Tschachalachi."

"Tschachalachi. That’s a mouthful. If it’s okay with you, I’d like to call you Tschach. You can call me Drevan, if you don’t mind; calling me blue face is going to get trying. Look, what are you doing here? Sympathizing?"

Slowly, the reptilian head shuttled from side to side. "Tschach will do well. It is ‘gentleness’ in our tongue. As for my sympathizing with you, I suppose you might say so. I have turned myself in as a criminal. I will face the Guilt Gulper after you do."

"You were an enforcer, man, not a criminal. Why are you going to do that?"

"Because I must, Drevan. Your remarks were clearly intended to irritate me, but they caused me to think—and I realized that I was no longer willing to enforce the Traditions and Guidance, because I no longer believed that they were just. Sending people before starved carnivores, and judging their guilt by whether or not they are eaten? It is foolishness." He looked out the window, at the dim shapes of what they faced in the morning. "How many innocent beings, I wonder, have I sent to those mindless brutes? It is just that I face them myself."

"If you’re queued up behind me, Tschach, I wouldn’t count on being a martyr. I don’t plan on being a dinosaur’s breakfast."

"Brave words. How do you plan to avoid that?"

"I’ll think of something." Drevan lay back on the bed. "It’ll be easier if they let me have a good pair of running shoes with decent spikes, that’s all. If you watch me, you just might figure out a way to survive."

Tschachalachi lay back as well. "We should rest. While we do, teach me of those things that seem to transcend cultures, and those that do not. I would learn of this, before I meet the Gulper."

"Brace yourself for a lecture, then. It’s the broad sweep that stays pretty much similar; it’s just the details that differ. All cultures have codes of modesty; regulations concerning ownership of material goods and how ownership is and is not transferred; rules about relationships between individual beings, between individuals and groups, or between individual groups; rules about personal rights, including ones about one being harming or killing another; regulations about how to make judgment of guilt or innocence; and a few others I don’t recall. Starting with issues of modesty…"


M’Benga looked at the chronometer for what seemed like the five hundredth time. It was shortly after midnight, ship’s time, and he still couldn’t sleep. Frustrated, he hauled himself out of his bed. Briefly, he considered administering himself a dose of prolethene, but decided against it. The problem was his worrying about Drevan, and he knew it. Rather than escape into a drug induced torpor, the physician decided to find something to take his mind off the situation. Donning his Medical Whites, he stepped into the turbolift. "Arboretum."

Stepping out of the turbolift, M’Benga realized that he wasn’t alone on the deck.

The other individual turned to face him. "I guess I wasn’t the only one who couldn’t sleep." Uhura turned her back to the turbolift, looking at the lush growth of vegetation. "I keep hoping that the weather won’t keep us from transporting Drevan up."

"It doesn’t look hopeful, Nyota." M’Benga moved next to Uhura, staring into the arboretum. A blooming wildflower caught his eye. He plucked it, offering it to her.

The captain turned to face her companion, taking the blossom and putting it behind an ear. "Oh, Keme, this is all my fault. What can we do? We’ve got to figure something, somehow."

M’Benga looked her squarely in the face. "I wish I had an idea to offer; I’ve spent the last several hours wracking my brain for some way to beat this, and short of a stroke of genius on Drevan’s part, I can’t see one."

"It’s not fair, Keme. It’s not, it’s not, it’s not." She began pounding on his chest in frustration, tears streaming down her face. "I sent him there, and he’s going to get eaten by some stupid dinosaur and…" She buried her face in his shoulder, sobbing. "I just can’t handle being a captain, Keme, I just can’t."

The Zulu took a deep breath, feeling his captain clinging to him, sobbing. Gently, he wrapped his arms around her. Before the man could react, the physician took over. His voice was firm, without being stern. "Captain, don’t be a fool." She looked up at him, her eyes almost pleading for absolution. "Believe me, you can handle it. Kirk spent a lot of time with McCoy, dealing with the same feeling, more or less crying on his shoulder, too." Reluctantly, he pulled her away from himself, wishing he could pull her closer instead. "No captain that is worth anything finds this kind of situation easy." M’Benga’s face contorted briefly. "You’re no more or less to blame than I am. If we had pulled Gogin through, Drevan would be on the bridge with us trying to figure out how to rescue Gogin." He sighed, his voice softening. "Losing Gogin hurts, too, Nyota. Webb, Davids, Eletto and I cried on each other’s shoulders, after we lost Gogin. That doesn’t mean we can’t handle the stress of being medical professionals. We’re Human. In the clinch, we handle it like the professionals we are trained to be: we just bottle it up until later, when we can safely release it, like Kirk did with McCoy."

Uhura wiped her face. "I guess I understand, Keme. Spilling everything all over your poor, soggy shoulder has helped." She sniffled a time or two. "I mean, Drevan’s still at risk, but it’s not so hard for me to face as it was. It’s not like it’s easy, but at least I don’t feel like I’m a total failure over it."

M’Benga’s hand gently stroked the captain’s hair. "I’m glad, Nyota. You’re proving to be a fine captain, honest: among the best. As far as I’ve been able to tell, everyone in the crew looks up to you, just like we did with Kirk on the old Enterprise. I know I do."

"Flatterer. But thank you." She pulled her chief medical officer close. "And thank you for not taking advantage of my little moment, here." Gently, but firmly, she pulled his face to hers and kissed him. "We’d both better get to our quarters, Doctor."

"May I escort you to yours, Captain?" He offered her his arm. Silently, she took it, and they both moved to the turbolift.


The turbolift door opened, allowing Uhura to step onto the bridge. Reichard turned, surrendering the conn. She turned to T’Soral. "Engineering. I need to talk to Indri."

"Engineering, Indri here. How can I help you?"

"Is there any way you can punch through the forcefield over their Great Arena?"

"If you’re thinking of trying to transport Drevan up, Captain…"

"No—just a hunk of critical tissue from these monsters. A dead lizard won’t eat anyone."

"Ah, I see." There was a pause. "I’m afraid not. Is there any other thought we might explore?"

"Not yet, but stand ready at a moment’s notice. And if you come up with something, I want to hear it immediately." Uhura turned again. "T’Soral, get me whoever is in charge of the place where Drevan is. I want to talk to Drevan."

"Shall I summon Sendal, Captain?"


Silently, the Vulcan turned to her console. A Dandrini appeared on the screen. "What to you wish?"

"I want to talk to Drevan, preferably now."

"I will check."

A change came over Uhura’s face. "Connect me, Dandrini. I’m in command of enough firepower to reduce the building you’re in to molten lava faster than you would care to believe. I’ve had enough of your bureaucracy and simpering arrogance. You’ve got one minute." She turned to her weapons officer. "Tucker, lock phasers onto that building, full power. Fire in sixty seconds, if Drevan’s face isn’t on the screen."

"The United Federation of Planets would surely not conscience such behavior, Captain," the Dandrini responded. "You’re bluffing."

"You’ve got forty five seconds left before you find out I how much care what the Federation thinks. You’ve already convinced me that we should recommend that your planet be permanently quarantined from civilized races. All you’re going to change is your personal lifespan. Fifteen seconds. Tucker?"

"Phasers locked on target, Captain. Ready to fire."

Drevan’s face suddenly filled the screen. "Captain?"

"Good morning, Drevan. Unfortunately, the bouncer has been rained out."

"I figured that was the case when I saw the weather."

"Do you have the shoes you requested?"

Drevan held them up. "They fit perfectly. You tell Indri that if he ever wants to give up engineering, he’s got a magnificent future as a cobbler."

"I’ll tell him, Drevan. Is there anything else that you need? Anything that we can provide?"

"A phaser would be nice, but they aren’t going to let me have one of those, so never mind. You realize that they’re going to broadcast this melee?"

She nodded. "That was my understanding. We will be watching, Drevan. And we will all be praying for you."

"I appreciate that. Just stand ready to get me out of here when I’m done with this ordeal, will you? I’ll probably need a rest."

The captain clenched her hands. "Your family will know that you have honored them greatly."

"Thanks, Captain." Drevan’s antennae twitched slightly. "Look, just so you know, you’ve been the greatest. These have been the best months of my life, okay? No regrets here."

"You can tell me that to my face tonight, Lieutenant. That’s an order."

The Andorian flipped a mock salute. "Yes, sir, mon capitan!"

"Seriously, is there anything else?"

"Tell T’Soral thanks for me; she’ll understand. And tell Hardav to stay out of trouble, okay?"

"I’ll do that. If there’s nothing else?"

"There’s nothing else, Captain. Drevan out."

The mainviewer shifted back to the planet. Sendal stepped out of the turbolift. Uhura turned to face him. "Hello, Sendal. Is there something you need to communicate?"

"I have received a formal complaint about your recent behavior from the Dandrini Royal Priesthood, more or less the Dandrini supreme ruling body. They have asked me to register a formal complaint with the United Federation of Planets. I will not burden you with the untenable way in which they requested it."

"I see. And what do you intend to do about it?"

Sendal’s lips pursed slightly, almost as if he was suppressing an overwhelming urge to smile. "I have already dealt with it. I felt that a remarkably strong refusal was the most appropriate course, considering the severity of their megalomaniacal arrogance. I am not entirely sure how to say it in your language, Captain; I said it in Vulcan and relied on the translator. If you will forgive the incivility?" He turned to T’Soral, speaking rapidly in Vulcan.

As she listened, T’Soral’s ears slowly but steadily turned an increasingly rich shade of green. She turned to face Uhura. "Captain, I am afraid that a precise translation of what Sendal suggested the Dandrini do with their complaint is as linguistically impossible as performing what he suggested is anatomically impossible. Even an approximate translation would require vocabulary that would embarrass most of the wharf rats that hide out at Smokie’s place. It would be something less than appropriate on the bridge."

Nodding, Uhura turned back to Sendal. "I believe I have sufficient understanding, Sendal. Thank you."

"As I said, an unusually forceful refusal seemed the most logical course, Captain." Sendal bowed slightly. "I trust that the captain’s log will reflect a more genteel refusal than was actually made."

"It will." Despite the situation, Uhura began feeling hopeful. She turned back to T’Soral. "Can you put their broadcast on the mainviewer?"

"Yes, Captain."

The mainviewer was suddenly filled with a scene that would have seemed almost appropriate in the Roman Empire. A huge, almost perfectly circular arena, filled to overflowing with Dandrini, dominated the screen. To one side of the picture of the arena, a listing of numbers filled the screen, under the title "Order of Appearance." The next to last entry, and the only non-numerical one, was "Drevan of Andor."

The turbolift door slid open again. M’Benga strode out, standing behind and to one side of Uhura, gently placing his hand on her shoulder. Davids and Eletto followed, Davids standing beside T’Soral. Moments later, Indri and Running Bear stepped onto the bridge. Uhura turned to T’Soral. "I guess we’d better make this available to everyone, or else we’re going to have to figure out how to fit the whole crew on the bridge."

"Very well, Captain." T’Soral tapped on the control surface, then turned back to the screen that held everyone else’s attention. Silence reigned.

Without warning, music began pouring over the overhead speaker and the scene on the screen changed, showing a number of Dandrini wearing rich robes and platinum circlets on their head making their way to seats at the edge of the arena, so close to it that the occupants might have easily leaned over and touched the white sand that covered the floor. As they became visible to the other Dandrini, the beings stood, cheering exuberantly.

"That would be the representatives of the Royal Priesthood," Sendal announced. "I think the one in front is the Great High Royal Priest. He rules the planet, with what seems to be a trititanium hand."

Except for the music accompanying the broadcast, the bridge remained silent. When the robed Dandrini took their seats, the others followed suit. The Great High Royal Priest gestured. As soon as he did, the view shifted to the middle of the arena. Two uniformed Dandrini brought a third one to the arena’s center, tightly clutching the being’s arms, just below where they protruded from the white tunic he wore. They stopped, forcing their captive to his knees. His head bowed, the uniformed beings released him and returned through the portal they had exited. The Dandrini on the sand began to beg for mercy, pleading innocence before the Guidance and Traditions. At a gesture from the Great High Royal Priest, a Guilt Gulper was released into the arena. As the one on the sand recoiled in horror, those in the arena’s seats cheered enthusiastically, becoming louder and louder as the reptile chased then ultimately caught its victim. Sated, the great lizard allowed itself to be led back to a pen while another team of Dandrini cleared the sand of the blood spilled in the brutal and messy capture.

"Bread and circuses," Uhura remarked, shaking her head in revulsion. "Well, the circus, anyhow. Between fear of these monsters, and the morbid entertainment, I suppose we can see how this society has survived despite itself. Here comes another victim: this one’s going to be trouble."

Another pair of uniformed Dandrini were dragging the next victim into position, their efforts accompanied by the loud, pitiful wail of the victim. Every time they tried to leave the being in the center of the arena, he would try to run back with them. Ultimately, one of the guards cuffed the creature’s head, knocking him down long enough for the other two to make their way out of the arena. It was clear that the show was delighting the people in the stands. Once the reptilian realized all hope of escape was closed, he ran toward the Royal Box, begging to be given another chance. None was offered, and all too soon another Guilt Gulper was led back to its pen, sated.

One after another, Dandrini were deposited in the arena. A few were stoical, expressing their certainty of their innocence and the Guilt Gulper’s unwillingness to consume them; others confessed their guilt and pled for mercy for an unwitting error; most were simply terrified. All, whether they stood in confidence or ran in fear, met their end in the maw of the Guilt Gulper. The appetite of the Dandrini in the arena’s seats for more gore and violence seemed more insatiable than the maroon reptile’s appetite.

"Drevan is next," T’Soral suddenly announced.

True to her prediction, Drevan was escorted out of the portal. The two uniformed Dandrini followed, walking on either side, and a half step behind, not holding the Andorian. A gesture from the Royal Box moved the escort to reach for their charge. At the first touch, Drevan reacted, lifting one of them above his head and hurling him into the chest of the other, sending them both into a crumpled heap behind him. Before they could return to their feet, the chief science officer reached the middle of the arena, staring at the Great High Royal Priest, defiance written on his face. Another gesture from the Dandrini leader sent the two guards scurrying to try to force Drevan to his knees. Sensing their approach, Drevan turned. "I wouldn’t try that, if I were you. This time, I’m not going to show mercy."

"Tell’em, Snowdome! Teach ‘em what it feels like!" Davids cheered. One glance from Uhura silenced the physician’s assistant.

Despite fair warning, driven by fear of their leader, the two reached for the Andorian. This time, there was a loud snap as reptilian bones fractured before their owners took flight. As they struggled to their feet a second time, the guards limped out of the arena. Drevan turned to face the adorned Dandrini in the box. "If you’re waiting for me to beg for mercy, forget it. Any society that thinks an innocent brute that is little more than an appetite on legs has the wit to decide issues of justice doesn’t deserve my respect. Set your monster loose on me, and let it do its worst. Just remember, this is all your fault. I refuse to be responsible for what’s going to happen to it."

The Great High Priest gestured for the Guilt Gulper to be released. As it ran across the arena towards the chief science officer, its great maw gaping wide in hungry anticipation, the Andorian ran toward it, full pelt, ultimately leaping between the gigantic jaws. Realizing its prey had somehow already reached its mouth, the beast clamped its jaws shut, swallowing. Uhura wanted to look away, but somehow could not. Suddenly, the Guilt Gulper began to thrash its head and neck from side to side, a trickle of blood exiting one corner of its mouth. Without warning, the massive jaws snapped open, depositing Drevan on the ground covered with whatever had been in its stomach. To the surprise and relief of all, out of the puddle of vomit, they saw the Andorian rise, defiantly. "Want to try again, plug ugly?" Once more, he charged his adversary. This time the Guilt Gulper, even its slow wit realizing that its agony had been caused by the small, blue being charging it, turned tail and ran, moving toward the box containing the Royal Priests.

At the approach of what had once been their tool, the ornately dressed Dandrini tried to run, but to no avail. The Guilt Gulper choked down the Great High Royal Priest, then grabbed a second. In the seats through the rest of the arena, pandemonium took over. As crews of Dandrini moved to drive the great lizard away from the stands and back into the pen, the spectators panicked. Some, especially those in the few rows closest to the arena, were running up the stands, fearful that the maroon monster would suddenly chose to come after them. Others cheered wildly, delighted by the sudden change in the script. Out of the chaos, a voice came over the address system.

"The One Without Guilt is before us! The Guilt Gulper tried to devour him, but he could not, vomiting back the one thing it cannot endure: the Truly Righteous. The prophecy has finally been fulfilled! All hail the Guiltless One! All hail!"

Drevan wiped the slime off his face, looking at the crowd. The arena’s crew had corralled the last Guilt Gulper before it caused any further loss of life. First a few, then dozens, hundreds and ultimately all the thousands in the arena streamed onto the sand, kneeling before the Andorian, chanting, "The Guiltless One! The Guiltless One! Lead us into our new day, Guiltless One!"

On the bridge of the Hyperion, the tension was broken by the sounds of rejoicing loud enough to drown out the broadcast, as those present realized that their shipmate had somehow managed to beat impossible odds.


Drevan looked around himself, thankful to be alive and astonished to see the reaction of the Dandrini. To his tastes, he felt that they were overdoing things badly, but as much as his heart wanted to tell them to lose the adulation, his better sense bade him be silent. One Dandrini stood out, principally because of his all-white garment. "Tschachalachi! Tschachalachi, come on over!"

He did as he was bid, kneeling before Drevan. "Forgive me for doubting you, O Guiltless One." The reptilian head touched the ground at the Andorian’s feet.

"Oh, get up, will you? I’m willing to bet that was your voice on the speaker system, wasn’t it?"

"It matters little, Guiltless One." The Dandrini leaned forward to whisper into Drevan’s ear. "Of course it was. Use your head, will you? If you play this wisely, you can help us build a system like the one you spoke of last night. I’m begging for your help, here, Drevan. We’re going to need it."

Embarrassed that he hadn’t realized the opportunity that had presented itself, he lifted his cell-mate to his feet, despite his active protest; then, he lifted his voice as loud as he could. "Hear me, Dandrini! You declare me the Guiltless One, because I faced your Guilt Gulper and was rejected. You ask me to lead you to your new day. I am only one, and I am not even of your kind. I declare it unrighteous that you should be ruled over by an alien: thus I declare this, my friend," he pointed to Tschachalachi, "to be your ruler in my stead, until you can form a new government. You cannot do it alone; as the Guiltless One, I will find and send you beings who are wise and righteous to help you do it. Are you with me?"

A ripple of enthusiastic cheering swept through the stadium as the Dandrini reacted to Drevan’s short speech. The Andorian turned to his friend. "Look, is there a way I could clean myself off, here? And I’d really like to talk to the Hyperion if I could. Think you could talk someone here into bringing me my communicator?"

With a wink, Tschachalachi bowed deeply. "Your wish, O Guiltless One, is our greatest desire." He turned to face the crowd. "Make way! Make way for the Guiltless One! Make way!"


Uhura, T’Soral, M’Benga and numerous others stood by Indri as he transported Drevan back on board the Hyperion. Considerably refreshed by the shower he’d taken before he had left the Great Arena, the Andorian nodded to his shipmates, walking off the transporter as if nothing had happened. "It’s good to be back. Hey, Indri—thanks for the shoes. They were a perfect fit." He tried to make his way to the turbolift.

"Not so fast, Lieutenant!" Uhura moved, blocking his progress. "I want to know how you managed to get, um, rejected by that lizard."

"It’s not obvious?" The Andorian seemed truly surprised. "It’s pretty simple biology, really. I thought every kid knew the trick."

"None of us here are kids, Drevan," M’Benga offered. "We’ve all forgotten, and the curiosity is killing me."

"It was mostly in the shoes," the chief science officer replied. "The tricky part was getting inside its oversized mouth without getting hurt. From there, all I had to do was find something to hang on to, and ram my feet against the back of its throat, good and hard. That’s where the cleats were especially nice. Surely you know what happens when you ram your finger down your throat?"

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